To receive a report and short presentation from the Executive Member for Finance and Investment.
The Executive Member for Finance and investment went through the presentation that had been circulated with the agenda. The presentation included the updated financial position for the year with a predicted £45.5M of COVID 19 related pressures during the year. Through government grants and actions taken by the Council and their partners it was predicted that the Council would be left with an overall deficit of between £2.2M and £8.3M. The Executive Member for Finance and investment stressed that these were all estimates and it was highly likely that the figures would change, especially if there were further outbreaks of COVID 19. The updated budget pressure for the next financial year was £35.1M with £19.2M business as usual pressures and £15.8M from COVID 19 pressures. The Council were looking to identify one off payments to address the recurrent COVID 19 pressures and making savings to address the business as usual pressures. The Executive Member for Finance and investment then informed the Committee of the approach that was being taken to identify savings across all services. The options included the recent offer of voluntary severance to staff. The final slide of the presentation showed the timeline for the budget during the year, including the budget scrutiny process, culminating in the budget going to full Council in February 2021.
Following the presentation Members were given the opportunity to ask questions. Councillor Blackburn asked about the voluntary severance scheme, whether it was a redundancy scheme and if so how many jobs were expected to be lost by the next year. The Executive Member for Finance and investment responded that it was a severance rather than redundancy scheme. Staff Members were being asked to look at flexible working options as well as possible severance depending on a person’s circumstances and what would work best for them and their service. The Executive Member also stated that he could not rule out redundancies later on in the year depending on the situation at that time. Councillor Blackburn followed up her question asking whether this was being offered to passenger assistants and if that could further reduce the number of passenger assistants the Council had. The Executive Member responded that he could not comment on the impact the scheme would have on a service at this stage.
Councillor Lloyd noted the contingencies which were contained in the budget report especially around the high needs budget and asked the Executive Member for Finance and investment how confident he was that the contingencies would be adequate. The Executive Member for Finance and investment responded that they were the best estimates available at the time and were very likely to change, especially following the announcement of further restrictions. The Corporate Director of Children’s services added that the monitoring of the demand lead pressures was ongoing and the Council was continually thinking of strategies to help to deal with fluctuations in demand.
The Chair noted that a number of fees and charges had been suspended during COVID 19 to help people cope during those times and asked when the fees and charges would be resumed. The Executive Member for Finance and investment responded that many of the charges that were originally suspended had since been restarted and the majority of the loss of income from those services was due to a reduction in demand. The government had offered some assistance to councils to address the loss of income and it was hoped that this would be increased. The Executive Member for Finance and investment stated that COVID had shown the importance of fees and charges in enabling the Council to fund the delivery of services. The Corporate Director of Place added that the Council had not stopped charging fees for planning applications but that the type of applications had changed. There was a smaller number of major development and housing applications being seen but more in relation to trees. The Corporate Director reiterated that there had been a decrease in demand for parking and added that there had also been a loss in rental income from commercial properties held by the Council.
RESOLVED: That the update be noted.